December 1, 2023

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New study uncovers the healing power of listening to your favorite music | Health

3 min read


(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels)

By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Listening to our favorite music reduces pain, according to a new study.

Researchers found that top tunes take away discomfort without resorting to drugs – and help people deal better with physical pain.

Our favorite songs, recitals or performances – rather than general relaxing music – were far more effective in reducing discomfort, according to the findings published in the journal Frontiers in Pain Research.

Scientists say the research could optimize music-based pain therapies.

The Canadian team explained that a decreased sensitivity to pain – also known as hypoalgesia – can occur when pain stimuli are disrupted between their point of input and where they are recognized as pain by the conscious mind.

They looked at what type of music helps to dampen pain perception.

Darius Valevicius, a doctoral student at Montreal University, said: “In our study, we show that favorite music chosen by study participants has a much larger effect on acute thermal pain reduction than unfamiliar relaxing music.

“We also found that emotional responses play a very strong role in predicting whether music will have an effect on pain.”

To test which kind of music was most effective for reducing pain, participants received moderately painful thermal stimuli to the inner forearm, resulting in a sensation similar to a hot teacup being held against the skin.

The stimuli were paired with music excerpts, each lasting around seven minutes, during the experiments at the Roy Pain Lab at McGill University.

Compared to control tracks or silence, listening to their favorite music “strongly reduced” pain intensity and unpleasantness in the participants.


(Photo by Burst via Pexels)

But unfamiliar relaxing tracks did not have the same effect.

Valevicius said: “In addition, we used scrambled music, which mimics music in every way except its meaningful structure, and can therefore conclude that it is probably not just distraction or the presence of a sound stimulus that is causing the hypoalgesia.”

The research team also examined if musical themes could modulate the pain-decreasing effects of favorite music.

To do that, they interviewed participants about their emotional responses to their favorite tunes and assigned themes: energizing/activating, happy/cheerful, calming/relaxing, and moving/bittersweet.

They discovered that different emotional themes differed in their ability to reduce pain.

Valevicius said: “We found that reports of moving or bittersweet emotional experiences seem to result in lower ratings of pain unpleasantness, which was driven by more intense enjoyment of the music and more musical chills.”

He said that although it is not yet entirely understood what “musical chills” are, they seem to indicate a neurophysiological process that is effective at blocking pain signals.

In some people, chills can manifest as a tingling sensation, shivers, or goosebumps, according to the researchers.

They also pointed to the limitations of their study, one of which is concerned with how long participants listen to music samples. For example, listening to relaxing music for longer might have stronger effects than the shorter tracks the participants listened to in this study.

Valevicius added: “Especially when it comes to the emotion themes in favorite music like moving/bittersweet, we are exploring new dimensions of the psychology of music listening that have not been well-studied, especially in the context of pain relief.

“As a result, the data we have available is limited, although the preliminary results are fairly strong.”


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